Riverside’s Aggressive Program to Lure New Business Irritates Rivals in Orange County
Saddled with a backwater image, buried by a summer-long smog bank and still at least an hour away from most major Southern California attractions, Riverside County has struggled for decades to compete in the high-stakes business of attracting new business. More often than not, the county has lost. But now, the inland folks are getting downright aggressive--some have said “ungentlemanly"--in their fighting style.
Last Wednesday, in Irvine’s own Hilton Towers, the Riverside County Department of Development hosted a Business Outlook Conference for nearly 300. The visitors claimed the event was merely an attempt to introduce Orange County to the possibilities lying beyond the Santa Ana Canyon, in a county that boasts the region’s fastest-growing labor pool and some of the least expensive land and housing costs in Southern California. But some Orange County economic development leaders didn’t believe the public relations talk for a minute. “The people next door are coming in and trying to hustle jobs away,” complained Al McCord, director of Anaheim’s economic development operations.
Marc Grisham, director of Riverside’s Department of Development, said the event has already resulted in several inquiries, including one from a representative of a Japanese food processor interested in setting up a plant in the United States.
“We’re very happy with the outcome,” Grisham said. The same can’t be said for his counterparts in Orange County. “The difference between professional and non-professional economic development activities,” explained McCord, “is that the professional targets the market precisely and doesn’t use some come-one, come-all shotgun approach. Riverside is using the shotgun approach.”
Added Hank Cunningham, director of Santa Ana’s Economic Development Agency: “It’s inevitable that Riverside will get business from Orange County, but not necessarily from conferences. They are not being very gentlemanly.”